Unite members begin work-to-rule after imposed contract forces them to jettison family life

Tim Lezard

NHS logoPathologists in Milton Keynes today begin industrial action after a new contract forced them to jettison their family life for a sharply reduced shift allowance for unsocial hours.

More than 30 bio-medical scientists at the Milton Keynes Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, who carry out blood tests, have begun working-to-rule from midnight.

The core of the dispute is the new contract that means that a previous voluntary agreement for ‘secondary cover’ at night and weekends has been made compulsory. The new contract started this month.

This means the pathologists have to be on-call and give up their family and social life for £25 for a 12 hour standby payment – this extra work is on top their normal 37.5 hours working week. Previously, under the voluntary arrangement, they received about £20-an-hour unsocial payment.

Unite blamed the cuts to NHS funding for the savage reduction in unsocial hours payments.

Unite regional officer Debbie Watson said: “Most people will end up working at least three of these 12-hours unsocial shifts a month – a combination of nights and weekends.

“In the past, they would have got an enhanced payment which, on average, was £20 per hour.

“Under the new terms they now only get an average of £6 an hour – on a par with the national minimum wage of £6.19 – for highly qualified staff.

“This is a 70% reduction for working unsocial hours. Members recognise times are tough, but think that the management’s hardline attitude means that their social life goes out the window.”

Already the pathologists do approximately three unsocial hour shifts as part of their normal working hours – now they also have to make themselves available on top of that for at least another three sessions during the month – and for that they will only be paid £25.

Debbie Watson said that the work-to-rule is continuous and while emergencies would be covered, the result of this action would be to delay more routine blood test results,

She added: “We call on the trust to reverse the compulsory element of the contract, so that our already hard-working members can enjoy a decent work-life balance.”

A typical biomedical scientist earns between £21,000 – £35,000-a-year, with a small minority above that figure. They will have a university degree, plus additional post-graduate training.


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Tim Lezard

Campaigning journalist, editor of @Union_NewsUK, NUJ exec member; lover of cricket, football, cycling, theatre and dodgy punk bands

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